Indigenous people in the ACT are experiencing increasing incarceration rates and over-representation in the justice system, with a ministerial briefing revealing “recidivism reduction targets are unlikely to be met within existing programs or through business-as-usual activities”.
Despite making up less than 2 per cent of the adult population in the ACT, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people account for almost a quarter of the prisoners at the Alexander Maconochie Centre (AMC).
Recidivism rates are also significantly higher for Indigenous prisoners at the AMC, with more than 90 per cent of Indigenous detainees previously incarcerated. This compares to 75 per cent for non-Indigenous detainees.
The 279 per cent increase in Indigenous incarceration in the ACT over the last decade is also five times higher than the national increase of 59 per cent.
“There are increasing 10-year trends in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander apprehensions, charges and arrests, as well as the proportion of apprehensions, charges and arrests that are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander. Non-Indigenous apprehensions and charges, however, are stable,” the ministerial briefing said.
“The ACT has had the highest increase of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander detainees since 2009-10 of any jurisdiction in Australia. Most data shows 10-year trends in ACT’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander justice data are getting worse.
“Moreover, diversion rates are low.”
Using the current Closing the Gap target of a 15 per cent reduction by 2031, parity in incarceration rates would not be achieved before 2081.
If this target were increased to 30 per cent, parity still would not be achieved until 2053.
In the 2019/20 financial year, there was an average of 443 prisoners on any given day in the AMC, down from an average 484 the previous year and a peak of 507 in mid-2018.
Despite the decreasing prisoner population, the number of Indigenous prisoners still increased at a much higher rate than the Australia-wide increase of 2 per cent, according to data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
The total number of prisoners decreased by 5 per cent, or 25 people, in the ACT from 30 June 2019 to 30 June 2020. The number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander prisoners increased by 12 per cent, or 12 people, in the same time period.